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Trekkers at the Trailhead

Salkantay Trek. Day 1

3:30AM Cuzco

Denise and Johannes start stumbling around the dorm. They were getting picked up between 4-4:30AM. Frick, I was awake until my alarm notified me it was 4:30AM and time to leave the comfort of my warm blankets. Our pick-up window was 5-5:30AM. Maybe paying more for my trek then Denise and Johannes meant I theoretically got an hour more sleep. Um, that is if I had not shared a room with them.

At 5AM on the nose (I would soon learn this was “Inka time”), I was the first to be picked up. Apparently, I was the easiest to find being the closest to the office. It took another 1/2 hour until anyone else joined me in the van.

  • Cara and Lauren were the first to climb into the seats in front on me. They were tired, we had already met, no need for mindless chatter.
  • Alex and Ana Maria slipped into the seats behind me. They live in Miami, Florida and met in San Diego. Ana Maria is originally from Colombia. Alex also had lived in DC around the same time as me.
  • Next, joined our Indian buddies, Mr B and Abi.
  • Ana and Pablo from Spain who wiggles all the way to the back.
  • Simona, a sweet Swiss chick slid in next to me.
  • The last stopped to pick up that last two dudes: Stefan, a boisterous Dutch dude and a familiar face from Chile.

For the first 30 minutes into the 2 hour ride, everyone got in their introductions. Once I had a breather in my conversation with Simona, I said hello to my friend from Chile and asked his name. He replied, “I know you Keren, we met before.” Me, “Duh, I know but you never told ME your name.” “Justin”. Soon after, the weaving van lulled everyone into a sleep.

Almost everyone, I was wide awake quietly watching the scenery outside my window. Per the trip’s description, I saw “panoramic views of the majestic Salkantay, other mountains covered with snow, and the Valley of Apurimac River” as well as tiny little villages with Peruvians already getting busy for the day despite the early hour.


The van stopped at Mollepata, 2900M, for breakfast and last grab for supplies for the next few days. and to have their last civilized onsie or twosie before hitting the trailhead. As we got out of the van, the guys pointed out the name of our van “Playboy”. Nice!

Over breakfast, more eager introductions. People were more awake thanks to the coffee, tea and anticipation for the trek. As I paid for my tea, Justin was behind me. He said he was going to call me “Stalker” since I ended up on the same trek as him. Ok, since he wrote down the name of the agency and told me the date, I told him I was calling him “Enabler”.


After breakfast, we all piled back into the Playboy for a short ride to Marcocasa, our trailhead. The other groups that paid less had to walk from Mollepata along a dusty round to the camp. The “Playboys” paid more and we got to take the high trail along with our bitches, burros y caballos, to carry our gear. That’s how we roll suckas!

At the starting point, we met some of our crew. As they loaded the equipment on our beasts of burden, we lubed up our bodies with sunscreen. The trek to lunch required only 300M climb in elevation enough to get some acclimated to hiking in this altitude. Ana Maria and Alex had some coca leaves for those who wanted to chew some to help with the altitude adjustment. After a brief lesson, a few of us popped the coca leaves into our bocas. Then we were off. It was a beautiful trek through the luscious green mountains over looking the valleys below. We took a brief break at a lovely viewpoint where there was a wooden hut that one of the three lil pigs could have built selling water and of course the ever present Coca-Cola.


We stopped at Challacancha for our first lunch. There were 2 tents set up: the kitchen and the dining room with a table and stools. They had buckets of water for us to wash our hands. The restroom facilities involved peeing behind a rock wall or in the trees past a pasture of cows that looked kinda orneryI was wondering what type of vegetarian food was in store for me. We got sopa de quinoa and pasta with mushrooms. So, everyone went veg the first meal. Plus, there was more coca tea on offer.

After lunch and a bit of time to chill, we continued hiking toward the Soraypampa where we would camp for the night at 3850M. It would be the coldest night with the possibility of getting down to -10C. I asked if any of the men who would be willing to volunteer to share a tent with me in order to keep me warm. Of course my question was met with a few mischievous grins. Along the way, most of us rotated walking and talking to our fellow hikers. I always like to hear people’s stories and of course share mine, too. Justin told me about that fall-out with his female fans from the group he had come with to the Obervatorio Mammalluca. I laughed, I had noticed the stink-eyes I was getting during the tour plus was amused that they had to drag him into their van much like they were kidnapping him at tour’s end.

Per the itinerary, we were supposed to make it to camp around 2:00 in order to take another lil trek to Humantay Lake, a ~1.50ish hour up and back trail from camp. I guess today, we were not on Inka time since we made it to camp at 5, thus having to skip that portion.


When we arrived, the campsites were already set up underneath a makeshift structure covered with tarpaulins. The couples had to shared tents and the singles got their one (another bonus for paying a wee more). I was stoked that the structure would provide for additional warmth since my tent would not allow enough room for 1 or 2 extra bodies.

It felt like I was in Kindergarten again, we were notified there were snacks awaiting us after we had a few minutes to claim tents and change. They had popcorn, crackers and te. After snack time, the group scattered about for quiet-time, to wander or to attempt to capture a few sunset shots.

After the sun made it’s exit, the sky quickly turned black and the stars started bursting into the sky. Abi, Stefan and Justin were huddled together smoking cigarettes. Once the smoke settled, Simona and I joined the circle to snuggle with the men to get warm. Of course, the men didn’t mind. It turned into a wee happy hour before dinner as Justin bought a round of beers for us. As more stars came into view, me and Justin used our expert knowledge from our observatory tour to point out things to the group. Justin then busted out his iPhone which had an app to locate different constellations in the night sky. Tonight there was no full moon so we were able to see the milky way and gazillions of stars. It was truly breathtaking and I tried my best not to think about infinity.

Dinner was good. Sopa to start. The main was trucha, but I was offered fried eggplant. For desert, it was a strange warm gelatinous pudding that looked like ectoplasm from Ghostbusters or microwaved snot. Other than the desert, the meals had exceeded my expectations this far.

Despite the early hour, 7:30, everyone was ready to crash. We all filed into our tents to call it a night. Justin had the tent right next to me, almost on top. Are heads were right next to each other, I warned him that I have the tendency to laugh and/or talk in my sleep. Yes, even in sleep it is hard to shut this chica up!

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